The mainstream news may be full of stories of failing schools being placed in special measures as budgets are slashed and cutbacks see headteachers and governors having to count their pennies. But we are proud to report that with the support of the Oxfordshire Diocesan Board of Education, 93 per cent of Church of England Schools in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes are classed as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’.

So we were delighted that St John the Evangelist Church of England School in Carterton has this week announced it has been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. 

The news follows years of hard work by everyone at St John’s, which had already been classed as ‘Good’ by inspectors in its previous inspection, back in July 2018.

Following January’s Ofsted visit, inspectors praised the strong leadership of the school. “Leaders, staff and governors want the best for all pupils. Leaders are unyielding in their pursuit of excellence in all areas. All pupils leave fully prepared for their future learning.”

They were particularly impressed with the way staff seize every opportunity to ensure that pupils understand the world past the school gates and encourage pupils to think deeply about both local and global issues.”

The report highlighted the exemplary behaviour and attitudes pupils brought to lessons and noted: “…they display a genuine thirst for knowledge and the utmost commitment to learning.” Safeguarding was found to be effective with a “strong culture where the wellbeing and safety of pupils is given paramount importance.”

When asked what the school needs to do better, the inspectors had no recommendations. Mark Smith, Headteacher at St John’s, said: “The children at our school often talk about the family of St John’s. This family ethos underpins all relationships and interactions and is evident in the commitment of the whole school community in creating the perfect place for children to learn and flourish.

“The success of the school is down to the unfaltering commitment of staff in providing the best education and care to all children. The support we receive from parents and carers and of course, the delightful children who are excited to learn and show the highest levels of respect and consideration for each other. I am very proud to be the headteacher for such an amazing community.”

Simon Watson, the chair of Governors, said: “Governors are particularly proud of the culture and values that are embedded in all aspects of school life. Leaders have worked tirelessly to make our school a place where every pupil can reach their full potential, where staff are valued, and their continued professional development is invested in. The whole team have made our school a place where everyone can positively contribute to their local community. Pupils’ behaviour is exemplary, and they are an absolute credit to this school.

As well as being rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, the school has achieved external awards for mental health and wellbeing, online safety and sports achievements. There are folders full of these awards proudly sitting on a table in Mr Smith’s office. These include Young Carers’ silver and gold awards. There is also evidence of an invaluable 360 Safe Online Safety Education evening at St John’s. The school invited childminders and leaders of youth organisations including Beavers, Cubs, Brownies, Scouts and Guides to share the message with them.

The Ofsted comes after staff, governors and pupils together worked hard to develop a vision for the school. This includes a significant emphasis on wellbeing for everyone. The school vision statement states: “The values we hold for our school, support our mission statement of: caring for others, achieving excellence. Integral to our values is caring for others and promoting positive emotional wellbeing and mental health of the school community.”

The school was also rated Outstanding by SIAMS, the Church version of Ofsted, following an inspection in 2016.